original review of alex welch from DT in English:
In her outstanding first scene, The Wonder tells us exactly what it is. The new film by the Chilean director of Disobedience Y a fantastic woman, Sebastián Lelio, debuts on a modern sound stage. «This is the beginning. The beginning of a movie calledThe Wonder«, tells us an invisible woman. “The people you are about to meet, the characters, believe in their stories with complete devotion. We are nothing without stories. And that’s why we invite you to believe in it.” By the time Lelio’s camera has finished its patient opening movement, we’re no longer on a soundstage, but on a Victorian-era ship bound for Ireland.
We know the ship is not real. We know that the cabin we are looking at is nothing more than a set and that the woman at the center of it is not an English nurse named Lib Wright, but Florence Pugh, one of the most recognizable stars in the world. The Wonder You know that we know this. He knows that we know the truth of what we are seeing in the same way that we know that Michael Corleone is not a real person, but a character played by Al Pacino. The Wonderin other words, he knows that all stories are lies, scripted movies above all.
They are lies that we choose, at our own discretion, to believe. The film’s insistence on acknowledging this in its very first scene is not only a bold and striking creative decision, but it proves to be the perfect opening note for a film that is about stories, and specifically the ways in which they can save us or kill us. , depending on what we choose to believe. Some lies, after all, are more deadly than others.
Based on a 2016 novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue, The Wonder follows Pugh’s Lib as he makes his journey to post-famine Ireland to take part in a mysterious new job. Once she arrives, Pugh’s former war nurse is shocked to discover that she has not been summoned to treat a sick patient, but to observe a local “miracle”. The miracle in question turns out to be Anna O’Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy), a religious young woman in the midst of a fast that has been in progress for months.
Lib’s task is to monitor Anna and her family to make sure she isn’t secretly being fed or somehow faking her own, seemingly ineffective starvation period. However, despite her initially ignoring Anna’s claims and her fellow villagers, Ella Lib quickly begins to question herself and her beliefs after spending several days with the O’Donnells. Unfortunately, Lib’s growing attachment to Anna not only results in various past traumas coming back to haunt her, but also puts her in direct opposition to the beliefs and methods of many of the Irish villagers she has found herself surrounded by.
Over the course of its fast running time of 103 minutes, The Wonder uses Lib’s relationship with Cassidy’s Anna to explore themes of trauma, religious zealotry, death and rebirth. While the film occasionally struggles in its second half to resolve the inherently repetitive nature of Lib’s assignment, The Wonder manages to transform his story of crippling guilt and love into a riveting and compelling gothic mystery. That’s due in no small part to the work put in by its entire cast, and in particular its two formidable leads.
Pugh provides a strong and empathetic anchor to The Wonder as your central nurse. The intense emotional scars of her character and unwavering desire to save her patients from the horrors of the world also give Pugh the opportunity to deliver one of her strongest performances to date, if not her best since. Lady Macbeth Opposite her, Cassidy gives a quietly commanding performance as Anna, the faith-driven girl who’s already been swept up in a maelstrom of spiritual and emotional darkness when it begins. The Wonder.
The Netflix film goes to great lengths to visually reflect the duality of despair and hope present in its two lead performances. Working with cinematographer Ari Wegner, Lelio turns Anna’s penthouse, where Pugh’s Lib spends much of his The Wonder, in an expansive and gloomy space. By often relying solely on the pale, faded light streaming through the windows of the O’Donnell house to illuminate Anna’s attic, Lelio and Wagner are able to create frames in which Pugh and Cassidy are standing both in the light and dark at the same time.
Outside their central farm, the pale gray skies and green, muddy fields of Ireland only help to The Wonder to sell your gothic mood. The recurring images of pricked thumbs and Wegner’s often constant and prolonged camera movements also create an added sense of dread within the film, one that Lelio further heightens by filling in some of the quieter moments of The Wonder with looping retaliation from Anna’s daily, whispered prayers.
All of these visual and sound motifs build, along with the intensity of Pugh and Cassidy’s performances, for a third act that is often cathartic and terrifying in equal measure. The film’s final conclusion may, on the surface, seem too clean for a movie as morally and emotionally murky as The Wonder. However, there is a dark and bittersweet truth at the heart of the story of The Wonderone that reminds us that even our most sacred stories must sometimes be left behind for new ones to be told.
The Wonder premieres Wednesday, November 16 on Netflix.